This was Mr Matsuura’s tenth visit to Italy since becoming Director-General but his first to the region of Sicily. Ambassador Giuseppe Moscato, Permanent Delegate of Italy to UNESCO and Mr Giovanni Puglisi, President of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO, accompanied the Director-General throughout the visit.
Speaking in the presence of the Italian Minister of Justice, Mr Angelino Affalo and philosophers from around the world, including Mr William McBride, President of the International Federation of Philosophy Societies as well as Mr Olabiyi Babalola JosephYaï, Chairman UNESCO’s Executive Board, the Director-General thanked the Italian authorities and the Fondazione Banca di Sicilia for so generously hosting the official celebrations of this important Day. He recalled the role the country had played in promoting philosophy and the other social sciences at UNESCO, notably through the Multimedia Encyclopaedia of Philosophy undertaken in collaboration with l’Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici and the Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, and produced by Italian Radio and Television (RAI) in 2002.
Continuing, Mr Matsuura noted that the theme chosen for the Day’s celebrations, “Rights and Power” resonated strongly with the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. As such, it provided “an opportunity to redouble our efforts collectively to reflect on the rights enshrined in the Declaration,” adding that it was also “a solemn occasion to recall the fundamental importance that UNESCO attaches to a broad and multi-faceted reflection on the universality and indivisibility of human rights” especially at a time such as now when societies all around the world were undergoing unprecedented levels of change, not least in the fields of ethics, law, science and technology. Citing in particular the notion of the dignity of all human beings affirmed in the Declaration’s preamble, the Director-General underscored the significance of the themes to be discussed in the round tables. These were crucial to UNESCO’s mission to promote a better world: Education for All, Intercultural Dialogue, Human rights and ethics, and “to our capacity to anticipate the emergence of new rights, notably in the fields of education, health, food and water, bioethics and the environment”, he added.
Welcoming the fact that similar meetings were being organized in more than 80 countries - representing almost half of UNESCO’s Member States, the Director-General said that these offered the possibility of broad and intense philosophical reflection on the challenges facing contemporary society. However, it was crucially important to extend that reflection to include all of civil society, and especially young people, and that the reflection would enable “a reaffirmation, removed from any political or cultural relativism, of the ideals of the Universal Declaration....under the banner of ‘Dignity and Justice For All.’” In closing his remarks, the Director-General announced that World Philosophy Day 2009 would be celebrated in Moscow, in the Russian Federation.
Earlier in the day, the Director-General visited the Headquarters of the Fondazione Banca di Sicilia where a lunch in his honour was hosted by its President, Mr Giovanni Puglisi, and during which the breadth of UNESCO’s actions were discussed with members of the press.
Mr Matsuura also met the President of the Region of Sicily, Mr Raffaele Lombardo to discuss, inter-alia, Sicilian heritage included on the World Heritage List and the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Mr Lombardo agreed with the Director-General on the importance of safeguarding cultural and natural heritage, which were among humankind’s most precious resources.
On 21 November, Mr Matsuura visited the Archaeological Area of Agrigento, a World Heritage property.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 167-2008 - Publication Date: 24-11-2008